I was lucky enough to secure an interview with Labour Party leader David Cunliffe shortly after his State of the Nation speech. I have reproduced a full transcript of the interview below.
Imperator Fish: Thank you, David Cunliffe, for taking the time to talk to me.
David Cunliffe: It’s a pleasure. You’re looking well, Scott. Is that a new head of hair?
IF: You like my new look? I went to Advanced Hair Studios. The friendly team there were super helpful, and now look at me. I look and feel ten years younger, and my lovelife has never been better.
DC: That is incredible. Do you have their website details?
IF: Go to http://www.advancedhairstudio.co.nz and book your complementary hair check today!
DC: I might just do that. Look, I’ve only got about five minutes. I hope that’s okay.
IF: That’s fine. I’ll cut to the chase then. You’ve announced a bunch of new policies, but the question everyone’s asking is this: where’s the money to pay for these new policies going to come from?
DC: That’s an easy one. Once these policies have been fully implemented we estimate they’ll cost approximately $528 million a year. We have scrapped our policies on GST-free fruit and vegetables and an income tax free threshold, which would have cost about $1.5 billion a year, so affordability won’t be an issue. All of this is explained in our official release.
IF: That may well be the case, Mr Cunliffe, but how are you going to pay for all of this?
DC: I just told you how. We’ve freed up one and a half billion dollars of planned spending by dropping proposed changes to GST and income tax. We’ll be funding our policy platform through a range of measures, including a capital gains tax and by taxing upper income earners a little more.
IF: But it sounds like a lot of money. Isn’t the taxpayer entitled to ask where the money is coming from?
DC: I just told you. The money’s there. We’ve budgeted for it. Read the release.
IF: But half a billion dollars?
DC: Yes, and we’re saving a billion and a half from the total cost of our policy platform by changing some other policies. It’s all there in the release.
IF: You keep telling me to read the release, but why won’t you just be up-front with the people of New Zealand? Why are you trying to avoid the question?
DC: I’m not. I’ve been up-front about the cost, and I’ve explained where the money’s coming from.
IF: Show me the money, Mr Cunliffe!
DC: I’ll say it again—
IF: Just tell us! Why can’t you tell us? Is it because you don’t know? Hasn’t your team done its homework? Shouldn’t your finance spokesperson be on top of this? Are you saying David Parker doesn’t even know how much this will cost?
DC: No, he knows exactly how much it will cost. The policy adds just over half a billion a year to our policy platform. But the cost of that platform also drops by a billion and a half a year due to GST and income tax changes.
IF: But surely that’s all just semantics, Mr Cunliffe.
DC: Er, I don’t think you know what the word “semantics” actually means.
IF: Is this a sign that your caucus is not completely behind you? You’ve just told me that David Parker knows exactly how much this will cost, and yet you don’t.
DC: Yes I do know. Just over half a billion a year once it has been fully implemented, but we’ve made savings of a billion and a half a year in other areas of our policy platform.
IF: Are you and David Parker not talking to each other?
DC: Of course we are. This is an entirely ridiculous line of questioning.
IF: Is it because David Parker is organising a challenge for the leadership? Why else would you refuse to talk to your own finance spokesperson?
DC: I talk to David almost every day. I was talking to him ten minutes before my state of the nation speech.
IF: Is that when he announced he would challenge for the leadership? Or were you pleading with him to give you the costings? Did he refuse?
DC: Good grief. Now you’re in fantasyland.
IF: Do you think you can survive to the end of the week, or will you be gone by lunchtime? And if you are ousted by your caucus, will you put yourself up for re-election and rely on the general membership to reinstate you? Do you think you have the numbers?
DC: There is no leadership plot, and this theory you have concocted, while highly original, is complete bullshit, pardon my French. I’m here to talk about our early childhood policy, and that is all.
IF: Yes, but it’s a policy you don’t seem to be able to cost. Don’t you think hardworking taxpayers deserve better than this from a person who aspires to be the Prime Minister?
DC: I’ll say it again. The policy is fully costed and is affordable. Frankly, we can’t afford not to invest in our kids. Every dollar we spend on our kids saves money in the long-term.
IF: I have to stop you there, Mr Cunliffe. I just saw David Parker walking by, and I want to ask him about his plot to unseat you.
DC: For God’s sake, there is no plot!
IF: Exactly. The fact that you’re denying there’s a challenge only proves that one is underway. And that was my interview with soon-to-be former leader of the Labour Party, David Cunliffe. Stand by as I try and catch a word with his challenger, David Parker.